Adding a physical wireless adapter to a Fusion virtual machine
I’m writing a book and needed to get some information about how Windows 8 interacts with wireless networks. I could have loaded Windows 8 on a physical machine, but because of travel and such, that’s not always a feasible option. So, as always, I turned to my MacBook Pro Retina and created a pretty beefy VMware Fusion-based Windows 8 virtual machine for my testing.
However, in a virtual machine running under Fusion, there is no default wireless network adapter, emulated or otherwise. However, it is possible to plug a USB device into the host and pass that device through to the guest operating system. When a USB device is plugged into the Mac OS X host, the hosts asks whether you want to connect the device to the Mac or to one of the running virtual machines.
However, before connecting the hardware, it’s important to install the drivers that run that hardware. This is generally done before the device is installed on the guest virtual machine. For my need, I bought a very small wireless- adapter, which came with a CD that had the necessary drivers. I followed the device’s driver installation instructions—which consisted of double-clicking Setup.exe.
Next, I inserted the wireless-N adapter into one of my MacBook Pro’s USB ports. When prompted, I told my machine to connect the mini wireless-N network adapter to Windows running inside my Fusion virtual machine. Just as would happen with a physical system, the drivers were associated with the devices and my wireless adapter started looking for available wireless networks.
Next, I went to the Windows Network and Sharing Center and looked at my network connections. I was able to see the adapter and, when I double-clicked on it, was shown a list of the available local networks. In the figure below, you can see both the physical device as well as the list of available wireless networks.
Now, I can do all of the wireless experiments I want in Windows 8 and still maintain the portability of a virtual machine.